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    Published on: May 11, 2020

    At a small bakery in his Connecticut town, KC finds a recipe for retailing success.  It may not be for everyone, but it has three elements that turned its bread and other baked goods from "nice to have" to "must have" ... and that's a pretty good thing for a retailer to do.

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    Fox News reports on the case of a Cape Cod ice cream parlor where, after the owner reopened it following a pandemic-oriented shutdown mandated by local regulations, he closed it down after one day.

    The reason:  customers who "grew frustrated with having to wait longer for their ice cream" because of lines "took their anger out on his staff," including a 17-year-old girl.

    Owner Mark Lawrence wrote:

    "As I turn the key in the lock tonight. My thought is that we shall simply not open to the general public until something resembling normal returns.

    "In 19 years of operation this is the lowest feeling I have ever felt, I will read all the posts and reply to them, but I lived it and can only imagine what awaits. We were overwhelmed, plain and simply. Regardless of peoples frustrations to take it out on a teenage girl is simply WRONG - it cost one of my best employees due to the rudeness directed at her tonight. So wrong in so many ways to treat a teenager with such disrespect no matter the circumstances."

    I'm not surprised by this, sad to say.  People can be idiots.  People can be so obsessed with what they want and what makes them look and feel good that they forget about other people's feelings.  Sometimes this manifests itself with ignoring sensible regulations designed to protect the public health, sometimes it looks like people saying that public health officials are fascists when they try to do their jobs, and sometimes it sounds like people who should know better foisting verbal abuse on a teenager who is a grocery checkout person or a clerk in an ice cream parlor.

    Stupidity reigns.  Narcissism persists.  And the fabric of what is supposed to make us an advanced, sophisticated and compassionate society continues to unravel, little by little.  At what point will there be no fabric left?

    I find myself wondering if the real virus that infects us is not the coronavirus, but rather incivility, intemperance and self-absorption that has been revealed by current circumstances.

    I find myself thinking of the words of Thomas Wolfe, in "You Can't Go Home Again"…

    "I think the enemy is here before us with a thousand faces, but I think we know that all his faces wear one mask. I think the enemy is single selfishness and compulsive greed. I think the enemy is blind, but has the brutal power of his blind grab. I do not think the enemy was born yesterday, or that he grew to manhood forty years ago, or that he suffered sickness and collapse in 1929, or that we began without the enemy, and that our vision faltered, that we lost the way, and suddenly were in his camp. I think the enemy is old as Time, and evil as Hell, and that he has been here with us from the beginning."

    The enemy is within … our own worst instincts and compulsions, in which we put ourselves first, and think our right to have an ice cream cone right now, no matter what, is somehow the most important thing and a test of what we think of as being our freedom.

    What an Eye-Opener this virus turns out to be.

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    The Seattle Times has a story about how some retailers that instituted "hero pay" or "hazard pay" at the height of the problems created by the Covid-19 coronavirus are now looking to reduce those expenses and scale back worker pay. 

    According to the story, "Kroger-owned QFC and Fred Meyer have confirmed they will be ending the $2 hourly bonus added to employee wages by the end of next week after company officials told employees in internal bulletins recently to expect the extra money to be discontinued. Other supermarket chains, including Safeway and Albertson’s, have yet to decide end dates for their $2 hourly bonus plans, while Walmart’s plan for some associates is due to expire in two weeks."

    The story goes on:  "In response to Kroger’s announcement, grocery workers’ unions are calling on the public to support employees in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming by asking Kroger to maintain the extra $2 an hour in pay. They also want the public to join them in pressuring the company to improve store safety practices and provide coronavirus testing to all employees as the new coronavirus continues to impact local communities. Unions represent 55,000 Kroger workers in those five states, and more than 13,000 in Washington alone."

    The Times writes that "Walmart’s ecommerce-fulfillment employees are receiving a $2 an hour raise through at least May 25, but the company has yet to decide whether it will be extended. The company last week provided employees a onetime bonus, adding up to $1.9 million for its Washington-based workers and $180 million nationwide.

    "At Seattle-based PCC Community Markets, the nation’s largest community-owned chain of food markets, a $2 hourly bonus has been in place since March 15 and was due to end Saturday. But PCC spokeswoman Kristen Woody said the company decided Friday to extend it until May 16 and will continue re-evaluating it on a weekly basis."

    KC's View:

    The argument here, almost from the beginning of these hazard-related raises and bonuses, has been that they would be hard to pull back without creating ill-will.  

    I'm not questioning the good intentions of these companies, but this does create the appearance of inconsistency and insincerity.  Are these workers really less heroic or essential next week than they were three weeks ago?  Is their work really less hazardous?  I think not - and in a few weeks or months, if there is a resurgence of the virus, that may be proven yet again.

    This could have been an opportunity for a broader rethinking of how we treat and pay retail employees at the front lines of how these companies do business in the best and worst of times.  Instead, the moment is being treated like an anomaly, something to be retreated from as soon as possible.

    To be fair, retailers suddenly find themselves in an economy with as much as a 20 percent unemployment rate, not the three percent of just a few months ago.  It has gone from being a seller's market to a buyer's market, and so they see opportunity to drive down labor costs.

    But my argument is and always has been that employees ought not be treated as costs, but investments.  The real hazard, I think, is not treating them as such.

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    The Idaho Press reports that Albertsons has filed an updated prospectus for its IPO, with, the story says, "significant revision" to the section listing risk factors.

    In one section, about "economic instability," the company writes, "We may experience materially adverse impacts to our business as a result of any economic recession or depression that has occurred or may occur as a result of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus … Consumers may reduce spending on non-essential items, purchase value-oriented products or increasingly rely on food discounters in an effort to secure the food and drug products that they need, all of which could impact our sales and profit."

    Regarding the likely shortage of meat, Albertsons writes, "Currently, the supply of meat products has been impacted by the shutdown of certain key production facilities due to workforce illness … We have good working relationships with major meat suppliers, smaller domestic suppliers and international suppliers, and we stay in regular contact to assess production capacity and product availability."

    But, it continues, "Based on current discussions with industry leaders, we anticipate that the meat supply chain will remain challenging for the near future.  The supply of each product will return to pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) levels at different times, and that there can be no assurance that our efforts to ensure in-stock positions for all of the products that our customers require will be successful."

    Albertsons also concedes that it may "be exposed to legal proceedings arising out of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including the potential for wrongful death actions brought on behalf of employees that contracted coronavirus (COVID-19)."

    CEO Vivek Sankara has not yet set a time for the IPO, only saying, “We will be watching the markets to determine the timing for our initial public offering."

    KC's View:

    Good luck on the timing, as we move from pandemic to recession.


    Published on: May 11, 2020

    Last week it was reported here that Amazon was telling office employees that they could continue to work from home at least until early October, but that, apparently, was just the beginning.

    The New York Times reports that an increasing number of companies with mostly white-collar employees "have recently extended work-from-home policies far beyond the shelter-in-place timelines mandated by state and local authorities.

    "Google and Facebook employees were told Thursday that they could stay home until next year. Capital One informed 40,000 workers that they will be out through Labor Day and possibly longer … Nationwide Insurance is moving more aggressively than other firms, shuttering five offices around the country and having its 4,000 employees telecommute permanently.

    "The moves reflect the reality that no one is sure how the coronavirus pandemic will evolve. While deaths from the virus in hot zones like New York City have come down, new outbreaks have emerged elsewhere. Almost every day, there are at least 20,000 new cases in the U.S., bringing the country’s total to more than 1.2 million.

    "But even after the coronavirus no longer requires it, working from home is likely to retain a significant presence in corporate life. It will affect the shape of cities and the commercial real-estate industry, and change the culture at companies that for years have been building elaborate temples for their workers."

    KC's View:

    I wonder if companies like Amazon, which has spent billions on office campuses in Seattle and elsewhere - including its HQ2 concept - wonder to themselves that perhaps some of that money could have been better spent elsewhere.

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Deliv, which launched its delivery business in 2012 and just two years ago was valued at $185 million, is going out of business, with some technology assets being sold to Target for what is called "an immaterial amount."

    “Due to a confluence of events over the past few months, Deliv will unfortunately be winding down our operations over the next 90 days. The last day of service will be on or before August 4th, 2020,” Deliv’s founder and Chief Executive Daphne Carmeli wrote in an email to its delivery workers.

    The story says that Target "expects to use the Deliv technology in its research and development regarding how to most efficiently make deliveries in urban areas."

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there have been 1,367,963 confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus cases, with 80,787 fatalities and 256,336 reported recoveries.

    Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has reached 4,198,418, with 284,102 deaths and 1,500,685 reported recoveries.

    •  From the Financial Times:

    "Trump administration officials warned on Sunday that US unemployment could worsen dramatically in the coming months, with the jobless rate climbing beyond 20 per cent. The warnings follow grim labour market data on Friday, which showed a postwar unemployment high of 14.7 per cent, and come as the US weighs the economic consequences of maintaining coronavirus restrictions.

    "'I think there's a considerable risk of not reopening, you're talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public,' Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, told Fox News Sunday.  "We're going to reopen in a very thoughtful way that gets people back to work safely, that has them social distance,' he said.

    "Mr Mnuchin acknowledged that unemployment could climb to as high as 25 per cent. Such a figure would put the current jobs crisis on a par with the Great Depression.  'The reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better,' he said.

    "Kevin Hassett, White House economic adviser, reiterated that the unemployment rate was likely to reach 'north of 20 per cent,' while Larry Kudlow, White House National Economic Council director, acknowledged that the administration was bracing for 'very difficult' economic data for the month of May."

    •  The New York Times writes that "in the latest sign of worry that the coronavirus could be spreading through the senior ranks of the Trump administration, three top public health officials have begun partial or full self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive.

    "Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed a CNN report on Saturday that he had begun a 'modified quarantine' after what he called a 'low risk' contact.

    "Representatives for Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, confirmed that they were taking the precautions."

    •  The Washington Post reports that "a top aide to Vice President Pence has tested positive for the coronavirus, making her the second known person working at the White House to contract the illness in the past two days.

    It was reported last week that a member of the US Navy who works in the White House as a valet to President Trump had been diagnosed with Covid-19.

    The story says that "Katie Miller, the vice president’s press secretary, was notified Friday about the result, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it had not been publicly announced by the White House. Miller confirmed to NBC News that she tested positive and said she was asymptomatic."

    The story notes that "Miller is a fixture around Pence and has attended the coronavirus task force meetings that he leads. She is married to White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller."

    •  The New York Times has a story about how many business leaders are "racing to deploy new employee health-tracking technologies in an effort to reopen the economy and make it safer for tens of millions of Americans to return to their jobs in factories, offices and stores. Some employers are requiring workers to fill out virus-screening questionnaires or asking them to try out social-distancing wristbands that vibrate if they get too close to each other. Some even hope to soon issue digital 'immunity' badges to employees who have developed coronavirus antibodies, marking them as safe to return to work.

    "But as intensified workplace surveillance becomes the new normal, it comes with a hitch: The technology may not do much to keep people safer.

    "Public health experts and bioethicists said it was important for employers to find ways to protect their workers during the pandemic. But they cautioned there was little evidence to suggest that the new tools could accurately determine employees’ health status or contain virus outbreaks, even as they enabled companies to amass private health details on their workers."

    •  The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that "South Korea, which largely succeeded in quelling the spread of the coronavirus, is back on the defensive, with Seoul’s bars and clubs ordered closed, as the country reported its biggest one-day increase in new infections in a month.

    "More than 50 cases have been linked to a 29-year-old man who, in a single night last weekend, visited five clubs and bars in a popular Seoul neighborhood, health officials said. He tested positive on Wednesday—the same day the South Korean government rolled out relaxed social-distancing measures.

    "The fresh virus cases, following days of no reported local infections, show how difficult it might be to return to normalcy. The country of roughly 51 million people hadn’t resorted to a lockdown like the U.S. and Europe. Instead, South Korea relied on aggressive testing, tech-heavy contact tracing and a willingness by many to stay indoors. The use of face masks remains widespread."

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency-use authorization to Quidel Corp. for the first antigen test for the Covid-19 virus—a step that could escalate the nation’s ability to test for the disease.

    "It is believed to be generally faster, cheaper and easier to manufacture than most current diagnostics. An antigen test can detect the disease itself by discovering the foreign toxin that is prompting the body to create antibodies.

    "The test relies on a decades-old technology. Current tests are more complex to conduct and analyze.

    "San Diego-based Quidel, which specializes in tests for flu, strep and other infectious diseases, already has placed about 36,000 test-analyzer instruments around the U.S. in places like hospital labs, emergency departments and doctors’ offices."

    •  On "60 Minutes" this weekend,  Amazon's head of operations, Dave Clark, told correspondent Leslie Stahl, "I think we've been early on the curve to this than most employers, particularly major employers in the U.S."

    The story noted that "as part of the company's last earnings report, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged at least $4 billion for COVID-related expenses. The company says it has already invested more than $800 million on safety measures."

    The story goes on:  "The corporation's focus on worker safety comes as some Amazon employees have staged protests, walk-outs, and sick-outs. Their demands include better sanitation of facilities, hazard pay and more generous sick leave."

    And Jana Jumpp, described as "a 59-year-old Amazon employee who works at a warehouse in Indiana," tells "60 Minutes" that she has been compiling statistics "by connecting with coworkers across the country and collecting the automated text messages and robocalls Amazon sends its employees when someone tests positive at one of its facilities."  Jumpp says that based on her research, she believes that there have been at least 600 cases of the coronavirus at Amazon facilities, and six fatalities.

    "60 Minutes" reports that "Amazon would not confirm Jumpp's number and says it is not the most important way to quantify the problem. 'The actual…total number of cases isn't particularly useful because it's relative to the size of the building and then the overall community infection rate,' Clark told '60 Minutes'."

    •  From USA Today:

    "Call it realism or pessimism, but more employers are coming to a reluctant conclusion: Many of the employees they’ve had to lay off in the face of the pandemic might not be returning to their old jobs anytime soon. Some large companies won’t have enough customers to justify it. And some small businesses won’t likely survive at all despite aid provided by the federal government.

    "If so, that would undercut a glimmer of hope in the brutal April jobs report the government issued Friday, in which a record-shattering 20.5 million people lost jobs: A sizable majority of the jobless — nearly 80% — characterized their loss as only temporary."

    I am shocked how many people think they are going to get their old jobs back.  I hope they're right.  I'm not confident.  But hopeful.

    •  From Axios:

    "Now that we're all sheltering in place, convenient childhood food favorites — like hot dogs, soup, and macaroni and cheese — are trumping the healthy options that prevailed pre-coronavirus.

    "Why it matters: A lot of food trends from the beginning of the year - the popularity of plant-based meat substitutes, low-alcohol/no-alcohol drinks, and products billed as organic or sustainable - have been tossed out the window.

    "Driving the news: Frozen foods (vegetables, pizzas, entrees) have seen historic sales increases, while canned goods and processed foods (soups, beans, tomato sauce) have been flying off of supermarket shelves."

    I like Axios a lot, but I think it would be a mistake to think that suddenly we're all going to go back to eating like Ozzie & Harriet.  (If you don't know who Ozzie & Harriet are, two suggestions - look it up and keep it to yourself.)  I think that aspiration remains high in the American public, though it almost certainly will be tempered by tough economic circumstances.  But if a retailer can figure out how to make aspirational products and services available to shoppers at accessible prices, that could well be a sweet spot.

    The one exception to this might be the notion of "sober curiosity," which was all the rage just months ago, but, as Axios notes, as been "drowned out by the bored and anxious."  Which, as it happens, is something that "Saturday Night Live" tapped into effectively this past weekend in its season finale.

    •  In Canada, the CBC reports on  Grocery Neighbour, described as "a fleet of trucks that will each operate like a supermarket on wheels."

    "We'll have technology to tell you when it's pulling up, or to notify you to where the grocery truck is," says owner Frank Sinopoli. "It will be like the ice cream truck when it pulls up: it will create that type of experience."

    The vehicles will be in service by summer, the story says:  "Sinopoli says the ultimate goal is to have 1,000 grocery trucks country-wide, although there will be just three in the Toronto area to start. The company is currently working to outfit trucks with shelves and refrigerated compartments. Neighbourhoods will be alerted via text message when the truck is set to arrive in their area."

    Other examples from the story:  "Food supplier Sysco normally sells only to restaurants, hotels and other industrial customers, but the company has just introduced Sysco@Home to deliver food to regular households."  Or Local Lines,  Local Line, which "gives local farms from across Canada better technology, so that customers can pre-order their favourite mixed greens, fresh cheese, honey and other artisanal products online."

    •  From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

    "The city of Cincinnati will close parts of 25 streets in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown Cincinnati so restaurants can expand outdoor seating, a move that will help restaurants without patio space keep tables farther apart for social distancing – and open as early as possible.  

    "The announcement came one day after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced restaurants can open outdoor space next Friday. Indoor seating isn't allowed until May 21, and only then with certain precautions. Parties must be seated 6 feet apart or there has to be a physical barrier, for example.

    "Restaurants and bars have been closed by state order since March 21 in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. It's put people out of work and shuttered restaurants who opted not to morph into carryouts."

    Yesterday morning Mrs. Content Guy and I were out jogging, and when we went by Starbucks she speculated that it might make sense for them to rope off half the parking lot and turn it into outdoor seating where people could enjoy their coffee and still practice appropriate physical distancing.  It is a good idea, and an example of the kind of thinking that businesses and cities, like Cincinnati - will have to use to put the economy back on some sort of small forward trajectory.

    •  One result of the pandemic, according to National Public Radio:

    "From California to Maine, the movement known as community supported agriculture (CSA) is booming. Members buy a share of a farm's often organic harvest that gets delivered weekly in a box. CSA programs almost everywhere report a surge in memberships and growing waiting lists … CSAs have long been something of a niche market that have never really penetrated the mainstream. Yet, the coronavirus just might prove to be sparking community supported agriculture's breakout moment."

    According to the story, "Some farms, large and small, that relied on restaurant, hotel, school and university food-service contracts have been hit hard. Many are now scrambling to adapt to a CSA-type model, at least in the short term, to survive. Some are now partnering with CSAs in a mutually beneficial pact that helps CSAs meet growing demand while offering an outlet for suffering farms."

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Shanghai Disneyland has opened, the first of the company's theme parks to reopen since the company started shutting them all down in response to the pandemic.  The Shanghai outpost closed in January.

    According to the story, "If Monday’s reopening was anything to go by, Walt Disney Co.’s theme park kingdom is likely to regain its magic slowly. Visitor numbers were capped, some attractions remained closed and the day featured none of the hallmarks for which the Disney parks are known: parades, fireworks and meet-and-greets with familiar characters."

    Disney was given permission to open the facility at 30 percent capacity, or roughly 24,000 people a day, but the company said that initial visitor rates would be "far below that" level.

    It isn't clear whether the numbers are below 30 percent because Disney is drawing the line, or because people aren't showing up.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out across the Disney universe, as the company tries to revive itself while still being smart about health-related issues.  

    I wonder if Disney would be able to add functionality to those "magic wristbands" that guests can wear to get into attractions and charge purchases so that they can monitor people's temperatures and enable contact tracing.

    •  Another casualty from the coronavirus:  "Americans’ urge to disconnect the living-room cable is spreading to Main Street," the Wall Street Journal writes.

    "The largest cable and satellite TV companies lost more than two million customers in the first three months of the year, the industry’s sharpest quarterly decline on record, as restaurants, bars and hotels hit by the coronavirus pandemic joined consumers canceling or pausing service … Cable and satellite companies warned in recent weeks that the pace of 'cord-cutting' could pick up as the pandemic pinches U.S. households, particularly if U.S. live sports - one of the biggest draws of having a cable package - don’t return to action for a long time."

    •  From the Associated Press:

    "Uber lost $2.9 billion in the first quarter as its overseas investments were hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, but the company is looking to its growing food delivery business and aggressive cost-cutting to ease the pain.

    The ride-hailing giant said Thursday it is offloading Jump, its bike and scooter business, to Lime, a company in which it is investing $85 million. Jump had been losing about $60 million a quarter."

    •  Bloomberg reports that "Airlines for America, the trade group representing large airlines, said it would support fever checks for passengers and employees carried out by the Transportation Security Administration.

    "In a statement Saturday, the airline group, whose members have been hard-hit by declining ticket sales, said the checks would 'add an extra layer of of protection for passengers as well as airline and airport employees.'

    "The group said it would back checking for fevers 'as long as necessary during the Covid-19 public-health crisis.'

    "Temperature checks raise the ante for airlines trying to assure customers that it’s safe to fly. They’ve already stepped up cleaning procedures, adopted policies to ensure physical distance between passengers and announced requirements for masks or other face coverings on flights."

    •  Finally … the 2020 Olympics may have been postponed until next year because of concerns about the pandemic, but the marketing efforts haven't closed down, as NBC - which has the broadcast rights - already has launched a new logo:

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    •  CNN reports that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) "and other Democratic members of Massachusetts' congressional delegation are pressing Walmart on its handling of a store in the state where 81 workers tested positive for the coronavirus and another location where an employee died."

    "We are writing to express serious concern about your company's failure to keep Walmart employees in Massachusetts safe amidst the coronavirus," 11 House and Senate Democrats wrote to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

    The letter, according to CNN, "pointed to a complaint that United for Respect, a workers' advocacy group, filed with the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration claiming that Walmart is 'not regularly informing employees when a co-worker is diagnosed,' not closing stores for cleaning and disinfecting after coronavirus cases have been diagnosed, and 'not enforcing social distancing in stores that can have up to 900 customers in them at a time'."

    In a statement, Walmart says that "Massachusetts is suffering from a high rate of coronavirus cases, and several of our stores located in some of the state's hot spots have also been hit hard by the pandemic … It may be impossible to track the source of anyone's infection, especially in some of these communities that have felt the devastating impact of the virus. That's why we are working in partnership with local health officials and are taking aggressive steps to help ensure the safety of our associates and customers."

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    •  Smart & Final announced over the weekend that it is implementing " a new line-queuing system that will guide customers more efficiently through checkout … In lieu of each check stand having individual lines, customers will now queue up in a single line towards the front of the store.

    "There will be a digital screen at the front of the line that will tell customers where and when a new register is available.  A swing gate will create a barrier where the line will start, and customers can wait until the monitor and flashing lights call them forward. The digital screen will also display other messages, such as reminders about social distancing guidelines."

    According to the announcement, "This system is expected to be installed in all Smart & Final stores before Memorial Day and reinforces the company’s commitment to the health and safety of its customers and store associates."

    •  The Seattle Times reports that while "Nordstrom has not published a list of the 16 full-line stores it is permanently closing," which represents "one out of every seven of the remaining 116 locations," local reports from malls and landlords are starting to create a virtual list (which Nordstrom has largely not confirmed).

    The list includes:  Chandler Fashion Center, Chandler, Arizona … Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara, California … Montclair Place, Montclair, California … Westfield North County, Escondido, California … The Galleria at Tyler, Riverside, California … Stoneridge Shopping Center, Pleasanton, California … Flatiron Crossing, Broomfield, Colorado … Waterside Shops, Naples, Florida … Dadeland Mall, Miami, Florida … Annapolis Mall, Annapolis, Maryland … Freehold Raceway Mall, Freehold, New Jersey … North East Mall, Hurst, Texas … and Short Pump Town Center, Richmond, Virginia.

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    •  Clif Bar & Company announced that Sally Grimes, most recently Group President at Tyson Foods, has been named the company’s new CEO.

    With the appointment of Grimes, the company said, Clif Bar founder, owners and current co-CEOs Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford will remain on the company’s Board of Directors.  

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    •  Jerry Stiller, whose career ranged from the plays of William Shakespeare, David Rabe and Bertolt Brecht to films like Hairspray, Zoolander, and the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, to TV shows like "Seinfeld" and "The King Of Queens," has passed away of natural causes at age 92.

    Stiller, of course, was perhaps best known for being one half of Stiller & Meara, the comedy team that he formed with wife Anne Meara, doing everything from "The Ed Sullivan Show" some three dozen times to countless ads, including an long-running campaign for Blue Nun wines.

    •  Little Richard, who was born Richard Wayne Penniman, and who brought infectious enthusiasm and showmanship to his brand of  rock 'n' roll infused by soul and R&B, has passed away at age 87.  His hits included “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Jenny, Jenny,” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly."

    The cause of death was said to be bone cancer.

    In its appreciation, NPR wrote:  "With his ferocious piano playing, growling and gospel-strong vocals, pancake makeup and outlandish costumes, Little Richard tore down barriers starting in the 1950s. That is no small feat for any artist — let alone a black, openly gay man who grew up in the South.

    "He was a force of nature who outlived many of the musicians he inspired, from Otis Redding to the late Prince and Michael Jackson. His peers James Brown and Otis Redding idolized him. Jimi Hendrix, who once played in Little Richard's band, said he wanted his guitar to sound like Richard's voice."

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    Got the following email from MNB reader Joy E. Williams:

    Huh, I was surprised by your comment, "What would worry me about this is that companies start to figure out how they can get more done with fewer people … how they can use technology to replace flesh-and-blood workers … and will put efficiency above effectiveness."

    I view efficiency and effectiveness pretty much as synonyms, and they are certainly not mutually exclusive. I think you’re right that there will be realizations of getting more done w/ fewer people. And there should be those realizations. If you’re employing dead weight, how does that help you survive??

    I would agree that they are not mutually exclusive.  Companies need to be both.  But I also think that they are anything but synonyms.

    I think there are advantages that people can provide to businesses (and their customers) that are not immediately apparent on the bottom line, but that make them more sustainable and successful.  

    For example, many retailers try to drive their labor factors as low as they can go … and then brag about their customer service levels, which have been undermined by the cuts.  To me, this betrays a focus on efficiency that does not honor the need to be effective, and it puts the emphasis on the wrong priorities.

    And regarding my mini-rant about how products labels and marketed as "home-made" rarely are, one MNB reader wrote:

    I agree! For years I have annoyed my family and even some grocers by asking, “In whose home was it made?” Maybe a better term might me “Hand Made,” in cases where there was some hand work done in the production line.

    I got an email over the weekend from Stew Leonard's in which they were talking about "chef-made" foods … which struck me as a much better way to go.

    Published on: May 11, 2020

    Thanks to all the folks on the west coast - and the east coast, and everywhere in between - who signed on last Friday night for our third MNB Virtual Happy Hour.

    Once again, a fun time - talking about how people were dealing with the coronavirus personally and professionally, about what we all were drinking, and sharing some good stories.

    Once again, I think - evidence of how MNB is more than a website.  We're a community.

    I'm putting another one on the calendar:  Friday, May 29  at 5:30 pm EDT.

    Details to come…